TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will make a two-day visit to Seoul from Oct. 18 for talks with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak in an attempt to develop future-oriented ties between the two countries, officials said Thursday.
The schedule was agreed at a meeting between Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung Hwan.
Gemba told a news conference in Seoul after the meeting that Noda, who became Japan’s leader about a month ago, will meet with Lee on Oct. 19 for “frank discussions” on a range of issues.
Gemba said that he also agreed with Kim to accelerate consultations at a senior officials’ level toward an early resumption of deadlocked negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement and work closely on issues related to North Korea.
It is Gemba’s first overseas trip for a bilateral meeting since he assumed his post on Sept. 2.
Gemba has repeatedly said that Japan has “a vital interest” in maintaining good relations with South Korea as the two countries share democratic values and embrace the free market system. He first held face-to-face talks with Kim in New York on Sept. 24 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session.
Gemba told Kim that Japan wants to transfer to South Korea a total of 1,205 volumes of royal documents brought to Japan during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula by December at an “appropriate time.”
During their talks, Kim again raised the issue of compensation for Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers in World War II, according to the officials.
But Gemba reiterated Japan’s stance that the issue of “comfort women,” as the victims are referred to in Japan, was settled by a bilateral treaty in 1965 that normalized diplomatic relations between the two countries, the officials said.
Gemba, meanwhile, said he touched on the issue of disputed islets known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.
“I will avoid going into details. But you aware of Japan’s stance,” Gemba said at the joint news conference. “I think it is important for both Japan and South Korea to deal with the issue calmly in a comprehensive manner.”
The South Korean-held islets in the Sea of Japan are claimed by Japan.
Prior to the meeting with Kim, Gemba paid a courtesy call on Lee, during which he said Japan wants to welcome the president to Japan as soon as possible, one of the officials said.
In addition to his visit to South Korea, Noda is exploring the possibility of making an official trip to China around the same time, sources close to the matter said earlier.
Parliamentary Senior Vice Foreign Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi is planning to leave for Beijing on Tuesday to discuss the possibility during talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and other senior officials.
Gemba and Yang confirmed in New York in late September that Japan and China will work on arranging Noda’s visit to Beijing by the end of this year.